November 20, 2011

Trip to Alabama

I was invited recently to participate in a trip with a number of local ND/MN superintendents to a facility in central Alabama called The Experience at Farmlinks.  The trip was entirely sponsored by a company called BASF that makes a variety of turfgrass pesticides, some of which we used on the course this summer.

Farmlinks is a very unique property in the golf world in that it was built with the sole purpose of being a research and demonstration facility for golf course superintendents across the globe.  The course was built in 2001 by the Purcell family, whose idea was to use the facility as a research and demonstration site for their line of fertilizers.  The Purcell's eventually partnered the facility with a number of top names in the golf management business including Toro, ClubCar, BASF, and Agrium Technologies (who bought out Purcell Fertilizer in 2006).  These companies continue to utilize the Farmlinks golf course to research and test their latest and greatest products before they are available to the golf market.  They also use the facility to host golf course superintendents from around the world to educate them about their newest turf products.

According to the Farmlinks website:  "Described by golf course superintendents as “the most beneficial three days of the year,” The Experience at FarmLinks is the nation’s premier source for “hands-on” course maintenance information, offering an unmatched opportunity to gain firsthand insight into the latest and greatest materials and methods available to the industry. The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) has approved The Experience at FarmLinks’ programs for continuing education units through their distinguished External Education Program...."

While there from Wednesday-Friday, our group had the chance to tour the site, meet with industry representatives, see a few new products, and view some of the latest research taking place with some of BASF's pesticides.  Most importantly, I had the chance to spend 3 days with some of the best superintendents in the area and hear about some of the challenges they are facing and what kind of success they have had dealing with them. 

Oh yeah, and I also squeaked in 36 holes of golf!

I must say I was very impressed by the terrain in central Alabama, must have been just at the foothills of the Appalachians.  It was a little odd playing on some of the dormant warm season grasses, but overall the course was in fantastic shape.  You could see the difference from hole to hole with different grasses planted, different fertilizer and fungicide test plots, and so on.  

All told it was a great trip and definitely was an intense 3 days.  For any members at GFCC interested, you all are now eligible for a fairly large discount should you wish to go down and play at Farmlinks this winter.  They have wonder cabins on site that we stayed in, as well as a 5 stand clay shooting setup, and wonderful southern food.  I think I saw somewhere that Farmlinks is the number 1 or 2 rated course in Alabama, so it is definitely a trip worth taking sometime!

November 10, 2011

Snow Control

Snow fence went up the last two days on all the greens that I anticipate having the snow blow off the "turtlebacks" on them this winter.  Fence was strategically positioned to try keep the snow drifted onto the greens surface from a north/northwest wind.  All of our 1960's eras greens are built with a high, rolling back that is going to be the first spot the wind will strip the snow off.  Snow cover during the winter acts like a protective blanket; insulating the turf from extremely cold temperatures as well as protecting it from the harsh, drying effects of the winter wind.  Furthermore, the insulating effect of the snow will keep the ground from freezing quite as deep as it would if it were blown bare.  The shallower the frost, the quicker the soil thaws out in the spring, and therefore the faster the turf greens up and starts growing.  Ever notice how long the turf stays brown in the spring at Kings Walk?  I would guess they experience a little bit of wind  there during the winter months; the snow blows off, the turf dries out, and the frost goes about a mile deep.  On the flip side of that, there were years in Montana we would get a heavy snow in October before the ground froze, and then subsequent snows would bury the turf with 3-5 feet of snow.  It was not uncommon to dig a snow pit in the middle of February in a fairway, stick a soil thermometer in the ground, and find that it was 38 degrees.  The ground would never freeze all winter underneath such a thick snow blanket.

fence behind 3 green
Fence went up on every green but 1, 10, 6, 7, 8, 16, and 17.  Those greens in particular have enough of a windbreak to the north side of them that I don't anticipate too much snow blowing off of them.  I snowfenced the greens extensively at my course in Montana, and it was definitely a trial and error process that I finally perfected after 5 years to get the snow to hold on the greens in the right spots, but not to drift in too deep either.  It will definitely take a couple of winters here also of making notes of how the wind blows, what areas strip off, and what areas drift, in order to tweak the snow fencing program in coming years. 

back of 3 green this spring
My hope is that we can significantly limit the amount of turf on the greens and collars that look like the above picture I took this previous spring when I got here.  Those areas that had the snow blow off of them over the winter were very slow to green up and fill in this spring, and most of the turf that came back in there was all poa annua, which in turn is more likely to die over the winter in those spots anyway.  It becomes a vicious cycle....

November 3, 2011

Let It Snow

I have heard rumors that it may snow during the winter in North Dakota?  This will be my first winter here, but I have a hard time imagining that it could possibly snow 200" during the winter like I was used to in Montana.  Nonetheless, I'm sure we'll get our fair share this winter, and protecting the turf on the golf course from Gray and Pink snow mold diseases will be of utmost importance.  Below are a few pics I took this spring when I arrived here of some of the snow mold that developed on the course as the snow was melting away.

16 green

2 Fairway

16 tee
All of these examples are what I would consider unacceptable.  Although it is nearly impossible to prevent 100% of the disease, we should be able to have much better control than this.  After doing some extensive research, combined with the fact that one of the pesticide manufacturers was offering a HUGE rebate on some of their products this fall, I settled on two products that tested quite well at every upper midwest testing location from last winter.  Below is a small piece from a golf course test site in northern Wisconsin.  The first line on the chart is the "untreated" check plot.  No fungicide was applied the previous fall, and when the snow melted off in the spring the untreated area was 75% covered with snow mold!  The product combination we are utilizing this fall is highlighted in yellow, test 23.  On the same site, the plot treated with Interface and Triton experienced 0.0% disease severity and had one of the highest turf quality and color ratings of all the other products tested. 

I don't necessarily expect our course to come out with 0.0% snow mold disease in the spring, that might be wishful thinking.  But I would like to think we should be below 5%, and whatever patches do appear should be very scattered as well as very small (baseball size or smaller.)  The greens and tees received two other applications of some other fungicides as well, so I do expect them to receive 0.0% snow mold!

Currently, all of the fairways have received their spray application, and the greens and tees have recieved their first two applications.  We have one more application to make on the greens and tees as soon as we get one nice, calm day next week, and then the snow gods may release their fury (but only in Grand Forks and points northward, no snow to the south...)

On a side note, I made the decision not to apply snow mold fungicide to the lower part of 9 fairway and all of 17 fairway, as these two areas in particular have been a total loss 3 out of the last 3 years from the floods.  I guess it just seemed like a reasonable risk to take to save the money that will be wasted if the flood kills all the grass there anyway.  It was kind of a roll of the dice, but if we happen to luck out enough to not have to reseed those two areas after the flood in the spring, having a little bit of snow mold to deal with will still feel like a walk in the park!